LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Being a commodity broker isn’t an easy job.
According to Doug Werling, vice president of trading operations at Bower Trading, it’s one that requires smarts, patience and the ability to adapt.
“It’s a cut-throat business,” he said. “It’s hard. But it’s very rewarding. There are so many great things that offset the hard part.”
The adage in the industry is that if you make it more than three years in the business, you’re in it for life. Werling has worked as a commodity broker for 15 years.
What’s your favorite thing on your desk?
I’m a pretty OCD kind of guy — you kind of have to be in this business. You have to be very organized and know what’s going on. I’d say the picture of my kids is the best thing on my desk. It’s the only thing on my desk besides the computer.
Tell me about your job?
From an investment standpoint, it’s customizing a strategy that is appropriate for one’s risk in the market place to get return. We help develop marketing ideas with farmers. We deal with speculative investors in commodities.
Our main goal is to essentially, on a daily basis, deal with customers one on one and see what their needs or wants are, then formulate a strategy that works for them to help them lock in profits.
What does it take to be a broker?
It takes a certain type of individual. It’s stressful. There’s risk. There’s reward. It’s not all gum drops and lollipops. It gets tough at times and awesome at times. You can be as successful as you want to be, or not, depending on how hard you want to work.
What other traits do you need?
You have to have problem-solving skills. Be able to be open-minded and handle things as they develop. Nothing ever goes according to plan.
You have to be able to adapt. If you’re not straight as an arrow, you won’t last. You have to be an honest, forthwith person.
What’s a typical day like?
On a daily basis we come in, put out an information bulletin and send it to our customers to inform them. If we need to talk to specific people about things, we’ll call and talk to them one on one. We answer questions and put in trades according to their needs.
What’s your background?
I grew up in northeast Indiana near Fort Wayne on a grain and hog farm. I went to Purdue and received a bachelor’s in ag systems management.
What’s the key to being a commodity broker?
The most important part of our business is knowing the individuals you’re dealing with so you can suggest ideas and work with them individually, as opposed to putting everyone in the same boat. It’s very customized. The one common goal is to reduce risk or better returns.
Did you always want to do this?
No. When I went to college I knew I wanted to be in the ag industry just from my background growing up on the farm. At first, I wanted to get in the engineering side, but I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do.
What excites you most about your job?
Two things. Creating a strategy that is successful for an extended period of time — that would bring the most excitement. It’s one of the most gratifying things.
To be successful in this business, you have to look beyond tomorrow and think about how things are changing in the world and how it will affect things going forward.
On the other side, the everyday excitement of trading and news flow and how things flow. I eat, drink and sleep markets. I’m constantly reading news and thinking how it can affect me.
Have you noticed any trends in the markets lately?
In the near term, the one big thing is global soybean demand and the positive growth there. The biggest change that we’ve seen in over a decade and a half is China’s consumption for protein and soybeans.
Any advice for students who want this career?
Economics classes are important. Knowing supply and demand scenarios. One of the things I wish I took more of in school is polyscience. Monetary policies affect trade agreements, and trade relations are so big in determining overall price.